Wednesday, May 03, 2006

A Serial Number on my Vote


i guess, nothing like starting a blog with a title like such in the midst of election season in Singapore. It appears that the end of one-party dominance has begun in Singapore.

Anyway, the reason why I got inspired to write was simple - a one liner on one of my friend's blog that said, and I quote "I used to think Singaporeans were ignorant. Some are.. but I have realized that most are not. Most were afraid. I honestly believed the PAP would know if you voted against them. I remember growing up wishing that nothing would happen to my parents if they had chose to vote opposition." So, thanks Fir, you've now got me to start blogging

I grew up with those same fears. The government had made the political scene in singapore one where the opposition were seen as people who would destroy what our parents and their parents and.. (u get the idea) have spent their lifetimes building up. As the ruling party of over 30 years, in a Parliament of 82 representatives (for a population of only 3.5million?!), their standard electoral spiel is - vote us in because we know best, and the opposition knows nothing.

Well, that worked as long as the ruling party was able to pick the best of the remaining talent pool to be put forth as members of Parliament, and also as well, to discourage political participation in everyone else. (Apathy? or systematic denial of political maturity in a society?)
The spectre of economic doom and gloom (straw man? slippery slope? bad logic?) was always used as a scare tactic during elections.

Digressing as usual. Back to the whole idea of the blog title - Firdaus' remark made me remember the choices I had when i stood in that voting booth back in (2001?) in MacPherson Secondary School. The voting ticket was clear and simple. 2 choices. Ruling party candidate and i think it was an independent candidate. No complex voting forms like in Euope, America (North and south) or such. I cast my vote based on economic principles, or what I thought was economic principles.

Well, 4 years later, much more tertiary education later, much more thinking later, it appears that I had cast my vote on insufficient information. Sure, the ruling party had a track record. The independent had none. Sure, the independent candidate cannot compete in terms of getting his message out in terms of campaign funds. (which makes me wonder, WHERE does the ruling party get its campaign contributions from? Do we have the potential for a US/UK-style scandal occuring one day?

I had also been irresponsible with the decision. I had not made any effort on my part to hear what the opposition candidate had to say about anything. (well, the internet wasn't as pervasive as it is this election, so it was harder to get any message out!) I had not bothered to be an informed voter. I had made the decision based on available information, which was +ve for the PAP candidate, and 0 for the independent candidate. (come to think of it, he may actually have been a member of some party).

Again, too much background, not enough focus on today's issue. That is - a serial number on my vote, and the fear factor it produced. At least a portion of the decision on voting was made based on the fear that I could be identified as being an opposition voter and discriminated against in my life from now on. On the back of the vote, there was a serial number. Now a serial number is nothing wrong, especially since there must be some sort of record to ensure that every vote can be accounted for. However, what caused the fear was that before I was given the voting form, I was registered in a process, that had someone identify the serial number with my name and IC number.

I cannot remember if the actual electoral process was one that could actually have made me idenfitiable by vote. However, the general feel within Singapore is that "big brother is watching", so it definitely had an effect in limiting the decision sphere. And in the new information age, it is actually easier than in the past to make one identified with every action/decision made in one's entire life. But back then in the last election, there was definitely that sense of fear.

So the ruling party and the government did nothing to dispel the fear that "big brother knows". From a selfish perspective, it is unnecessary to waste any advantage in the competition that is an election. However, it perverts the purpose of an election, which is to choose representatives that best represent the people.

What we have in the world today are candidates that sway to 'public opinion' (in our case, its the invisible conservative majority that the ruling party claims to reflect). We no longer have many candidates who stand for what they believe in, and tell the world what they believe in. We have politicians, when we are looking for leaders. (but that's for another day's diatribe).

Anyway, just to re-state the point - there was a serial number on my vote, and the then perception of being identified, singled out for voting opposition and persecuted against was an unnecessary constraint upon my freedom to choose, and based on that memory, I shall remember the time where I abdicated my full right to be responsible for my own future.

{Post-logue - I can't vote in this 2006 election because I happen to be out of Singapore, and by chance, I will be able to make it to the Singapore High Commission in London where overseas voters can go. However, to qualify as an overseas voter, it appears that I need to have stayed overseas for 2 years (and as a colloquary, it appears that u also must have stayed in SG for 2o hf the past 5 years). So since I have only been away from SG for 2 months, I don't qualify as an overseas voter, and must again, abdicate my responsiblity as a citizen of the little country that I still call home.}


Blogger Kevin said...

No better time than to blog now really. It's all about having a voice where we might be lacking one. :)

4:01 PM  

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